Investing in a conference for creatives as an attendee was the first business investment we* ever made.
*Me and Wes—the person I had to convince it was a sound idea for me to quit my $60k+ a year job, to hopefully make money on my own. Eek!
At Illume Retreat in April of 2016 (read my recap here!), wide-eyed and shaking in my boots, I walked into our first dinner. My seat? It was positioned casually next to a girl in a pink jumpsuit, you know, the girl that launched the idea of a conference for creatives into motion, a girl that had served dozens of clients and was a year younger than me (How’d she done this so fast!?! I hardly knew what business taxes or client management software even were—and I’d had another trip around the sun!), a girl that had the business acumen I dreamed of—Kat Schmoyer of Dear Sweetheart Events and Creative @ Heart conferences.
I think I said 5 words to her that night. 😳 I was so afraid of making a mistake or sounding dumb!
So … I was incredibly honored to speak at Kat’s conference for creatives last week—and I want that to be an encouragement for you if you’ve been where I was before, and completely intimidated and tongue-tied being around more seasoned entrepreneurs. There’s hope, my friend!
Today, I want to share a recap of my first experience speaking at Creative @ Heart in Raleigh, N.C.!
Because the truth is, I never want this whole creative business thing to sound like a fairytale … let me explain.
“I was an overnight success all right, but 30 years is a long, long night.” -Ray Kroc
I adore that quote (and put The Founder on your Netflix queue if you’re a business owner, too! It’s great.). “How did you grow so quickly, Ashlyn?” “You really took off pretty quick, huh?” “What do you think made your business grow so fast over night?” All questions I’ve been asked this sophomore year, from podcast interviews to meet-ups.
But here’s the thing. It wasn’t overnight. It never is.
There was a decade in large, publicly traded magazines and online outlets … a few years at a full-service communications agency … and a few years in privately-owned corporate marketing. There’ve been industries from pest control to airlines, restaurants to well, more restaurants.
There were a few months in hospitalization for mental health issues that let me sit back and think who do I really want to serve with my marketing-wired brain.
And that was all before I launched my business.
So no … no, it’s never an overnight success thing, small business ownership. It wasn’t for me, and it’s not for you either.
You have acumen, you have skills, you have experience, and you have a story that’s uniquely positioned you for what it is that you want to do, ok? Don’t neglect your gifting—it’s something to steward, and steward well.
My friend and client Jenna said it on one of her recent podcasts: “Jenna! How’d you grow your Instagram following so quickly!?” she said she’s been asked. But it wasn’t overnight. She’s been diligent and steadfast for years, quietly doing the work that’s showing fruit now.
It’s never “overnight.” Let my Creative @ Heart conference for creatives speaking experience remind you of that!
When I’m asked the one tip of business advice I’d give a new creative entrepreneurs, I always say this: Sometimes it takes an investment to get in front of the people you want to serve—and for me, aconference for creatives did that best.
That first business investment I mentioned? It was about $4,000 for Illume Retreat—booked before I left my corporate job—and it’s what set my business into motion. It’s where I met 3 speakers that went on to become clients, it’s where I first had women speak into me and tell me an Ashlyn-sized hole in the creative industry that I could maybe serve. I wouldn’t have quickly realized there was a need for copywriting for creatives without a conference for creatives experience.
Kat graciously asked me to talk about copywriting for creatives, so I talked to 130+ women (and guys/husbands … guys/husbands, I’m sorry for the number of times I said “I wish Wes were here to meet y’all!”) all about the client journey, how to write using 19 copy formulas, and how to find your “onlyness factor” as my Copywriting for Creatives students know I call it.
Here are my Creative @ Heart 2017 highlights!
- Meeting Lara Casey for the first time—without reading Make It Happen, I wouldn’t have made the leap to entrepreneurship, and she’s a former client (don’t worry, I completely kept my street cred by CRYING INTO HER HAIR 🙈).
- Rooming with my dear friend, client, and speaking coach Jessica Rasdall. Heart grenade. Cannot wait for her book release next month!
- Laughing over wine with Becky & Jesse Morquecho of Idealust and sweet clients Abby & Matt Springmann of Abby Grace Photography.
- Getting to sit at my client Katelyn James’ feet—literally, asking questions and again, keeping street cred—and watch her as an unbelievable role model in this industry.
- Seeing Shay Cochrane speak live—WHO KNEW she’s hilarious!? I Cheshire-cat grinned the whole time.
- Chats with peas-in-a-pod Bonnie Bakhtiari and Laura Huston.
- FINALLY hugging the With Grace & Gold ladies (they’re also … you guessed it, clients. Guess who has two thumbs and was so nervous to speak? This girl! Attendees, you had me nervous, but speaking in front of CLIENTS!?! No pressure!), Megan Martin (Also, hilarious.), my internet crush/fellow bookworm Ashley Herrinton, and the one and only Davey & Krista Jones duo … they’re whip-smart and as real as it gets!
- Having lots of girls come up after my talk and tell me how they’d struggled with an eating disorder/anxiety/depression and wanted to share their story to reduce the stigma of mental illness, too. 👊🏼
Creative at Heart? You reminded me why I do what I do. Why I spend hours in a spare bedroom typing my fingers off and trying to learn how to be a better teacher about copywriting to an industry that maybe didn’t spend a decade in mass communications.
And I’m just simply in heaven looking at these photos again—Holly Felts & Hope Taylor, thank you for your work capturing the conference for creatives week!
Speaking credits also included:
Kat Schmoyer | Katelyn James | Tiffany Tolliver | Shay Cochrane |Davey & Krista Jones | Hope Taylor | Myrna Daramy | Becky & Jesse Morquecho | Kelly & Andra | Shanna Skidmore | Megan Martin | Elle Danielle | Lara Casey
Another big thanks to the breakout leaders, sponsors, and friends who made the conference for creatives possible:
Alex Estes | Randi Smith | Caroline Bigmann | Bonnie Bakhtiari | Lacoya Heggie | Shay & Graham Cochrane | Jessica Rasdall | Abby Grace | Kelly & Andra | Davey & Krista Jones | Stephanie Thacker | Ashley & Tyler Herrington | Dannie Fountain | Venue: Merrimon Wynne | Name Tags & Pop up Shop: Caitlin of Happy Tines | C@H Alumni T-Shirts: Jakprints | Ashlyn of Ashlyn Writes | Kinsey of She Creates Business, a Podcast for Wedding Pros | “How Brave Are You Willing To Be” Notebook – Rachel Allene | “Did We Just Become Best Friends” Greeting Card – Smitches | Furniture: Paisley & Jade | Photobooth: Emily of EmJo Studios | Two Bright Lights | Aisle Planner | Conference Videographer: The Herrintons | Conference Photographer: Holly Felts